Learning a new language is a long process. For example, when I was learning a second language, it took a lot of time with memorizing vocabulary and doing different practice exercises. It takes a lot of practice and studying to truly master another language. If you are new to learning Spanish or you have just been practicing it for a little bit, or even if you’re an advanced learner of Spanish! I bet you’ve had moments where someone has told you something in Spanish and you have no idea what they just said. It happens! There are some Spanish Phrases you won’t understand. It’s okay to have these blank moments.
Now, I put something together for you beginners to avoid situations like these. Here is a list of the 25 most used Spanish phrases. Practice them. Memorize them. Use them. You can check also out our previous blog Spanish for Dummies. Hopefully, with these, you will successfully avoid those awkward moments.
Greetings are important because they are our conversation openers. You probably already know ‘hola,’ but asking how someone is doing is also an important skill to have. You can greet someone in Spanish in many ways (check out our previous blog on Spanish Greetings for more information), but here are the basic Spanish phrases for greetings:
However, these last three Spanish phrases can be used as greetings and also as a way of saying goodbye. Surprisingly, they mean the same in both situations.
Responses to greetings
Saying hello is important. On the other hand, being able to respond to a greeting is fundamental if you want to avoid those awkward pauses. These responses help to keep the conversation flowing. Here’s the list of short, basic responses that are super easy to learn:
Likewise, farewells in Spanish are good to know so you don’t leave a conversation hanging open. Just like not being able to respond, leaving without saying goodbye would be very awkward. To avoid that, here is the list of Spanish phrases to say goodbye:
Polite Spanish Phrases
People in Spanish-speaking countries are very kind and polite toward tourists and people that can’t speak the language fluently. If you are traveling aboard, for example, the locals will gladly help you with anything you need. Therefore, you need to know some Spanish phrases to respond to their politeness:
In addition, ‘Perdón’ and ‘Disculpa’ can also be used for ‘excuse me.’
Questions are half of a conversation. For instance, they help when you want to get to know someone, but also if you don’t know something, or if you want to ask for help. This is why earning to say those questions in Spanish is very important.
Questions in Spanish start with one of these phrases: Cómo, Cuándo, Por qué, Quién, Qué, and Dónde. In English, these are: How, When, Why, Who, What, and Where. To clarify, here is a short list of Spanish questions:
Other Useful Spanish Phrases
All of the Spanish phrases above are very useful and important to know if you want to have a fluid conversation in Spanish. There are many other phrases you can learn, but here are the last three I consider useful so you can learn:
I really hope these 25 Spanish phrases that I have listed are useful to you. I can guarantee that if you learn these you will not have that many moments where you don’t know how to respond. These phrases will help you understand what others are saying and how to respond to them. Also, learning these phrases will help you further your studies of the Spanish language. If you are looking for more phrases and important things to know in Spanish, check out our blog on how to Learn Spanish in 5 months!Read More
We talk to people every day – on the street, in the store, at home – and rarely think about how amazing it is that we can actually communicate with them. We constantly take for granted our ability to converse with those around us.
Now, 58.9 million of our neighbors here in the States are Spanish-speakers. Imagine that for a moment. There is an impressive language barrier between us and almost 20% of the population. How can we bridge that gap and begin to communicate more fully with our neighbors? Well, we can start by perfecting our Spanish-learning process.
Why the Traditional Methods of Learning Spanish are Flawed
Let’s think about how most of us have tried to learn Spanish…
- Workbooks with reading and writing exercises
- Large classroom settings
- Non-native Spanish speaking instructors
- Software (free or paid) with audio recordings
- Classes only 1 or 2 times per week
Did one of these methods work for you? More than likely, they did not because these techniques utilize the wrong parts of the brain.
Flaws in the Traditional Methods
Remember the list we made of the different ways we normally try to learn Spanish? Those are what we are going to call ‘traditional learning methods.’ Let’s explore further to see where exactly they went wrong.
If you’re like me and went to public school, the norm was that you took about a year of foreign language in middle school before it became a requirement in high school. Since I studied in Texas, Spanish was the most logical choice of a second language. However, it wasn’t like I had much of a choice since German and French were my only other options. So, I began to study Spanish only because of its practicality. Now, on a personal level, Spanish was my least favorite class. I was a pretty good student overall, but matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do better than a B- (yes, I know – I was an overachiever).
At some point, I owned the fact that I wasn’t good at learning languages and just gave up. I stopped trying, which was quite contrary to my personality.
Looking back, I can point to several things that probably held me back.
Common Learning Errors
- Large Classes: I was in a 5A district, studying at a high school of 5000+ students. My graduating class was about 1000 students. In other words, the classrooms were consistently filled to capacity.
- Limited Attention: Due to the high student count, how much attention could one teacher realistically give to any one student? How does anyone stay focused when they’re just another face in the crowd?
- Limited Practice: Our classes, if I remember correctly, were approximately 50 minutes. They later shifted to an hour and twenty minutes in high school. Within those 80 minutes, I experienced about 10 minutes of actual application time. However, we weren’t speaking with actual native speakers. Instead, we stammered broken phrases to other non-Spanish speakers for a couple of minutes until we got distracted by a more interesting topic.
- Workbooks: Given the limited class practice time, most of the actual Spanish work was assigned as homework. This meant that we mainly learned about the reading and writing rules of the Spanish language in class, and perfected them (or at least attempted to) outside of class. I would actually argue that my reading and writing got pretty decent, but I couldn’t speak the language if my life depended on it.
In hindsight, it’s clear that my Spanish journey was flawed since day one. I was learning how to read and write in Spanish, but I barely flexed my auditory & speaking muscles. The lessons, activities, and practice works were constantly reinforcing reading and writing in Spanish, nothing else.
Now let me be clear. I’m definitely not saying that software and textbooks that focus on those learning areas are insignificant. I truly believe they can be helpful. However, I’m simply saying that they are only one part of a much bigger picture. We need various tools to activate the key areas of the brain that will help us effectively learn Spanish fast.
Before we can begin to learn Spanish fast, we must have a better understanding of how the brain functions when learning a language.
How the Brain Works
The brain is a very complex organ in the human body. It controls everything we do. Whether that’s reading, writing, or speaking, the brain has to be trained, over time, to know how to complete those tasks.
Although the brain is much more complex than what we can delve into here today, it is clear from looking at this diagram that different language functions are primarily controlled by distinct areas of the brain.
What this shows us is that when we try to learn a language with just reading or writing exercises, it isn’t very effective because we aren’t exercising the part of the brain that controls speech. We are learning only half of what we need to become fluent in Spanish.
In other words, as a learning audience, we have been studying and learning Spanish incorrectly.
In a nutshell, our brain accomplishes any task by firing or sending electrical signals to different regions of the brain. These signals then travel through the body to the muscles that you want to use. Let’s say, for example, you want to say something. Your brain would first send out signals to different parts of the brain to recall the words and sentence structure you need. Then, it would signal your muscles to move correctly and get your vocal cords to produce the correct sound. All at the same time. Whoa! That’s a lot of tasks! No wonder it’s a hard thing to learn, huh?
Becoming More Efficient
These electrical signals we just talked about travel along something called ‘axons.’ However, the further the signals have to travel, the more energy they lose. Luckily, our axons are wrapped in a fatty substance called myelin, which helps maintain energy. You can think of axons like the coaxial cables of the brain.
When we’re younger, this myelin fatty substance is quite thin. The more we ‘practice’ specific tasks, though, the more resources your body dedicates to that axon and thickening the myelin. This, in turn, produces a very well insulated pathway for that particular electrical signal. In this TED video that explores the idea further, they refer to it as something “similar to an information superhighway.”
Logically speaking, as a signal becomes fast and more efficient, the result should appear quicker and better, right?
Targeting the Correct Objective
The answer is yes. But to make that signal faster, we need to practice the right tasks. If we want to create efficient pathways in our brain for speaking Spanish but never say a word, those pathways will never develop. We must target the correct objective when we learn Spanish.
At this point, I can probably conclude that I did not excel in high school Spanish because the curriculum and activities were creating and reinforcing axon pathways in my brain specifically for reading and writing. Had I been able to converse and develop pathways for speaking, I would have been more proficient in communicating in Spanish. There’s a common saying, “practice how you’ll execute,” and it rings true for language learning.
More Than Practice: Quality and Effectiveness
The video I previously mentioned goes on to point out that although practice is necessary to build up the myelin along your axons, it’s not the only thing needed to develop mastery over any skill, including speaking Spanish.
This explains why repeating a bunch of words randomly or without context, often does NOT lead to Spanish fluency. So, we have talked about how traditional learning methods are ineffective. What’s the correct way to learn Spanish quickly, then?
How We Do It:
At Spanish Academy, we’ve developed a unique method of teaching Spanish that centers around five key concepts represented by the acronym RAMMA. These letters stand for:
Our classes are either 1-on-1 or 2-on-1, giving you the ability to talk about things that are relevant to your life. This does a couple of things. First, it gives your brain a point of reference and allows you to contextualize and process what’s going on. It also aids in pushing the information into your long term memory.
Because the information is relevant to your experience, you’re naturally more engaged in the class. Studies show time and time again*** that when you are attentive, your brain is more likely to retain the information.
Now that your classes are relevant to your experiences, you can learn Spanish through a lens you are familiar with. This gives meaning and perspective to your Spanish learning journey. Instead of just learning a bunch of generic words and phrases that you might never use, you will actually learn useful and meaningful vocabulary, grammar, and conversation skills.
Just like being attentive allows you to store information in your long-term memory, giving meaning to the context allows you to do the same. All that context, perspective, and meaning lets you process and store this information a lot faster than if you were to just try and memorize things a list of words.
Of course, repetition plays an important part in language learning. That’s where the last letter comes in: A for accountability. To continue with something that’s difficult, you need guidance and direction – or accountability. This is one of the most important things that people forget about or don’t include in their learning regiment because they don’t think it’s important. However, it can actually shorten your learning curve by avoiding mistakes that you would otherwise make. Think of your Spanish teacher (or some accountability partner) like Google Maps. You’re still able to get to where you need to go without Google Maps, but it’s a lot faster if you have it guiding you along the way.
Learn Spanish Fast
In my travels, there’s a joke that I’ve encountered many times over – as I’m sure many of you probably have. It goes something like this…
“What do you call someone that knows three languages?”
“What do you call someone who knows two languages?”
“What do you call someone who knows one language?”
Crazy right? But, there’s some truth to the joke. In many parts of America, there are people who feel that other languages should not be spoken or used in public.
Without getting political, I think one of the reasons for this, is that people find it really hard to learn Spanish or any other language. And it is challenging, don’t get me wrong. But it can be easier than people make it out to be if they practice and learn Spanish correctly.
So, it’s time to throw out those traditional methods and start learning Spanish effectively today. Click here to learn even more about how our program can help you learn Spanish fast, or go ahead and sign up for a free class. We can’t wait to see you in class!
About the author
Ron went from zero to Spanish fluency in 3 months after he left his high-paying consultant gig to become a director of a school for impoverished kids in Guatemala in 2009 – dove into the deep end. In 2010, he saw an opportunity for a real business and began his company in his tiny apartment. As the CEO/Founder of Homeschool Spanish Academy & Spanish Academy TV, he loves making an impact in students’ lives and also really loves chocolate.
If you’d like to learn more about how the brain works, check out this TED video. Or watch this one to discover how to learn Spanish in only 6 months! These videos go more in-depth with the ideas discussed in this blog.
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So, you want to learn Spanish. Maybe it’s even one of your New Year’s resolutions that you said you wanted to do but haven’t got around to yet. Nowadays, there are so many different resources we can use to learn Spanish. Applications, though, have a special draw to those of us who want to learn quickly and on the go. Maybe you’re looking to start from scratch, or perhaps you are already in Spanish and just need extra support. Well, you’re in luck! We’ve compiled a list of the best Spanish apps of 2019 to learn Spanish for free! Check out which one will work best for you.
There are four key areas of language learning: listening, speaking, writing, and reading. The most passed over and avoided area is reading, probably because it requires patience and time. However, reading can astronomically improve your language skills because you are subconsciously learning language structure and patterns while also absorbing new vocabulary through context. The only issue is…how can we make it fun and appealing? With Beelinguapp! This is by far the best app to practice your Spanish reading. With the free version, you have access to a variety of reading material. You can choose from different categories, such as travel, kids’ stories, and science. In addition, you can select your level as beginner, intermediate, or advanced. However, I will say that the beginner material is not for true beginners. You will need some basic Spanish knowledge before using this app.
How does it work?
After selecting your language, level, and category, you can choose which item you would like to read. Then, download it and begin reading either on your own or with the narrator. As the narrator speaks, the app highlights the text so that you can both hear the pronunciation and see the written word. Another cool feature of this app is that you can read the Spanish part only, or have the Spanish and English versions open at the same time to compare them. Finally, you can build your own glossary by adding new vocabulary words to your account.
This Spanish app was quite a pleasant surprise. It’s called ‘drops’ because you learn just a couple words at a time. In the free version, you can only study 5 minutes every 10 hours, which is perfect for those of you who are trying to squeeze language-learning into your busy schedules. If you’re looking for something more intensive, or already have some Spanish experience I would not recommend Drops. However, if you are just starting to learn, this is one of the best Spanish apps available.
How does it work?
Drops has great visual effects, with a drawing or animation accompanying each vocabulary word. After each word is introduced, there are exercises and games to help you truly learn the vocabulary. The app tracks your progress by how many words you have learned and then calculates your level accordingly. Additionally, the vocabulary is separated into categories, and the first level of every category is available all at once for your perusal. The categories include everything from science to business, from food to fashion.
In my opinion, Memrise came in as an extremely close second after Duolingo for the title of ‘best app to learn Spanish.’ While the other Spanish apps are limited to their own specific style of learning, Memrise combines them all into one app. Not only can you learn multiple languages at once, but you can learn from multiple platforms. For example, you can learn Spanish from the multiple Memrise Spanish courses, or from different programs that users themselves have created. Some of these other courses even include all the vocabulary from the corresponding Duolingo courses.
How does it work?
This app looks at language learning like growing a plant. When a word is first introduced, it is just a seedling. The more you practice, the more the plant grows until it flourishes into a flower. When the flower wilts, it means it’s time to practice that word. Depending on the course you choose, you can learn both phrases and vocabulary. Instead of a placement test, Memrise offers different levels of Spanish that you can choose from based on your experience. The Memrise courses themselves offer both vocabulary and phrases, while some of the other courses focus on different vocabulary, conversational skills, idioms, etc. In the learning process, you can find a variety of exercises, from watching videos of native speakers to practicing your own pronunciation. The app even includes both direct and literal translations so you can understand the structure of words and phrases.
Of course, you’ve probably heard of Duolingo. It has become so popular lately, and it continues to hold it’s title as one of the best apps to learn languages. What makes this app doubly amazing is that the founder of Duolingo is Guatemalan! Since our teachers are located in Guatemala, the country holds a special place in our hearts (learn more about Guatemala here). However, Duolingo isn’t in the number one best app spot because of any bias. To the contrary, its content speaks for itself.
How does it work?
You can either start at the very beginning or take a placement test to score out of some lessons, which makes this app perfect for all Spanish learners. As you progress through the lessons, you learn both vocabulary and phrases. Additionally, grammar is taught by showing it in sentences instead of a formal grammar lesson. If you would like more explanation, you can hover over the word or words. Like Memrise, you can reach different levels and goals, which encourages the user to keep practicing. To reinforce what you have learned, there are interactive exercises that test all areas of language-learning: pronunciation, writing, listening, and comprehension. Duolingo and Memrise are very similar in the way that they present and practice vocabulary, but Duolingo takes it a step further by giving grammatical explications, user forums, and supplemental learning features.
Get Practicing with the Spanish Apps!
Now that you have all the information, try out some of 2019’s best Spanish apps. Let us know which one you found to be your favorite!
Of course, the best way to utilize these Spanish apps would be to use them as a supplemental course to real Spanish classes. Take a Free Trial Class with us today and see how you can learn Spanish with a live instructor from the comfort of your home.
Body language accounts for 90% of the information exchanged between two speakers. Unfortunately, we may go to another country without learning important gestures and their meanings. However, by learning body language and practicing it before traveling, we will be better equipped to communicate. If you know where you’d like to go in order to enhance your speaking skills and comprehension, then you’ll know what types of body language and gestures to learn based on the region. Additionally, you will benefit from learning the body parts in Spanish and their idioms.
Spanish Body Parts: The Vocabulary
The Spanish-speaking world, known in linguistics as the hispanosphere, is bursting at its seam with a variety of slang. The Spanish body parts vocabulary provides a variety of slang. These can differ in each country, so we will just focus only on the general words used and understood in every hispanophone (Spanish-speaking) culture. With an excellent basic foundation in understanding, you will be able to learn the relevant slang words much quicker and improve comprehension more efficiently by asking questions. Let’s look at some Spanish body parts!
The Human Body
The Head and Face
Spanish Body Parts and Idioms: Using the Vocabulary
Learning idioms is vital when communicating with the natives of a foreign country. They are the informal, figurative language we use in daily life that expresses feelings or situations in a phrase whose meaning doesn’t immediately stand out. For example, in English, we say “Hold your horses!” when we want to express the idea that the other person needs to wait. Clearly, we are not asking them to hold back their actual horses! This is informal, figurative (non-literal) language. To truly understand the conversation and the culture of a hispanophone country, we must be aware of these figurative phrases exist. Also, don’t be afraid to ask about them when you hear a strange phrase pop up!
List of Idioms
Body Gestures: Latin America and Spain
Watch out! (¡Ojo! / ¡Cuidado!) – put your index finger to your eye and hold or tap just below
I promise you. (Te lo juro.) – make a fist, bring the thumb to the mouth, kiss it and then flick it outwards quickly with thumb up to show that you really mean it
Slow down! (¡Más lento!) – hand open with the palm facing outward, moving in a patting motion
It’s delicious. (Está delicioso.) – fingers come together at the mouth then moved forward and opened
Come here. (Ven aca.) – hand out with fingers down, palm face down, move fingers simultaneously together, making a motion from the person toward your body
Thief! (¡Ladrón!) – palm down, while each finger touches the palm one at a time. You can do this if you’re on a bus or in a smaller space, and you notice a pickpocket nearby. This would be a great way to warn other people.
Body Gestures to Avoid
In Spain, people consider yawning or stretching in public vulgar. So, no matter how tired you are, avoid making this mistake! It is also a common cultural mix-up to use the standard American gesture of “come here” with your hand out, palm up, and index finger wiggling. This actually portrays a romantic interest in Latin culture, and people only use it in very specific situations. Remember to turn your hand over and use all your fingers in a sweeping motion toward your body to signal someone to come to you. On the other hand, if you’re in Latin America, avoid gesturing with your hand turned sideways with your fingers spread. This motion is a strong insult against the other person.
Let Your Brain Learn and Your Body Talk
During your Spanish-learning journey, you can begin to expand your horizons and learn more about Hispanic culture. Idioms and body language are, of course, a big part of that experience! Every time you learn a new theme, such as food or travel, challenge yourself to look up idioms and gestures that are used to communicate relevant information. You will soon see that you’ve built an empire of knowledge. This will help you improve your speaking skills, comprehension ability, and capacity to integrate into Spanish culture.Read More
What’s the difference between “martes” and “miércoles” in Spanish? If you still struggle with this answer, then you are in the right place! In this post, you will learn the seven most common words in Spanish: the days of the week. Additionally, we will cover how to pronounce them and use them in sentences. What’s more, if you need a boost in memory power, I’ll share below a proven technique for you to remember new vocabulary. ¡Vamos!
Días de la Semana
Firstly, there are a few differences you must know about los días de la semana in Spanish. For example, they are always lower case, unlike the days in English. In contrast to the English calendar that starts with Sunday, the week begins on Monday in Latin countries. Additionally, each day uses the masculine definite article in singular (el lunes) and plural (los lunes).
The Definite Articles: “El” and “Los”
When using the definite article “el” while we talk about the days of the week, it means “on”. Try out these phrases to practice the new vocabulary:
¿Vas a venir a mi casa el domingo?
Are you going to come to my house on Sunday?
Yo tengo que trabajar el lunes.
I have to work on Monday.
Él quiere ir al dentista el jueves.
He wants to go to the dentist on Thursday.
Furthermore, we can change the definite article to “los” and add an -s to the day when we mean to say that something happens habitually. Keep in mind, if the day already ends in -s then we don’t need to add another -s.
Yo hago compras con mi abuela los sábados.
I shop with my grandma on Saturdays.
Ella juega a las cartas los martes.
She plays cards on Tuesdays.
Los miércoles, yo trabajo como tutor de inglés.
On Wednesdays, I work as an English tutor.
How to Memorize
In order to remember the days of the week as quickly as possible, you can follow a tried-and-true memory technique. This requires a bit of creativity, but it’s well worth it! For each day, try to link the sound of the word with a crazy mental image. Surprisingly, this technique is consistent and effective. Let’s try it together…
El lunes – When you read the word, it sounds very similar to the English word “loony.” Think of a funny image of a loony-looking guy standing in front of a sign that reads “Lunes”. He is the first in a line of six other characters, which will be the other days of the week. You can even repeat in your head “Loony lunes” to reinforce both the pronunciation and the image.
Now you try!
Write your list of the next six days and write out a description of a super crazy, funny picture. Similarly, you could just draw it. Remember, the trick is in the image: the crazier it is, the easier it will be to remember. In no time, you will memorize all of the Spanish days of the week!
The Origin of the Spanish Days of the Week
The Spanish days of the week have a significant history and origin to their names. Read on to learn more:
Lunes comes from the Latin Dies lunae, meaning día de la luna. In English, this means, “Day of the Moon”.
Martes comes from the Latin Dies marte, meaning día de marte. In English, this means “Day of Mars”.
Miércoles comes from the Latin Mercurii dies, meaning día de Mercurio. In English, this means “Day of Mercury.”
Jueves comes from the Latin Jovis dies, meaning día de Júpiter. In English, this means “Day of Jupiter.”
Viernes comes from the Latin Veneris dies, meaning día de Venus. In English, it stands for “Day of Venus.”
Sábado comes from the Hebrew word Sabbat, the day of rest.
Domingo comes from the Latin Dies Dominicus, día del Señor or “Day of the Lord” in English. It is related to both the sun and the Christian reverence for the son of God, Jesus.
The Days of Our Lives
All in all, learning the days of the week in Spanish is important for conversations and meetings with friends. You will also be able to understand when they are trying to set a date with you. Moreover, you’ll be able to talk about some of your habits and routines when you are getting to know someone. Ultimately, every beginner Spanish learner should make sure they know the days of the week and how to use them in a sentence.Read More
Homeschool Spanish Academy (HSA) has a unique curriculum and teaching style that can be tailored to the varied needs of students of all ages and levels. The immersive teaching style helps students to learn quickly and in a more natural manner. HSA also offers live online tutoring with certified instructors to create the best means of learning possible. HSA stands by their teaching style, but what is that makes this approach truly effective?
Here are some of the practices that HSA uses to keep your child engaged, excited to speak Spanish and confident in their linguistic skills.
Classes on Your Child’s Level
One point that HSA takes a lot of pride in is that they can tailor your child’s classes to their grade level or interests. While the basic curriculum remains the same, each teacher has a bit of freedom as to pace, adjusting the amount of time spent writing or speaking as needed or just adding in a bit more conversation.
Many students find that traditional classes goes too slow or too quickly for their style of learning. This often leads to students giving up either from frustration or boredom and hinders learning.
When a teacher can see how a student learns and then responds to that student as an individual as opposed to another face in the crowd, everything changes. Suddenly, class is a place where your child feels supported and the real learning begins.
Time for Review
One of the elements of language learning that can make it overwhelming is the sheer number of words, grammar rules and exceptions that students have to juggle as the semester advances. This is why time for reflection is so important.
Students retain their new vocabulary and master grammar rules when they have a chance to revisit them. Review sessions pull double duty – they serve as a warm up and get learners ready for new material, but it also reinforces the past lessons in the student’s mind. While it can be tempting to power through old lessons and focus on new words and phrases, review truly is key to making students confident Spanish speakers.
Real Conversation and Interaction
As a parent, you have a lot of choices for online classes, but very few offer a live, in-person teacher. The majority rely on automated lessons your child can click through.
When students have an actual teacher to interact with during class and tutoring sessions, the learning dynamic changes. Knowing that a real person is on the other side of his or her lesson means they can go beyond staring at a screen and develop a connection with their educator. It also opens the door to natural, organic conversation in Spanish to help reinforce your child’s skills and become a bilingual learner.
Sign up for a free class today to see for yourself just how effective HSA tutoring is for learners of all ages. Click here to schedule your session.Read More